Album Review :
7eventh Time Down - Just Say Jesus

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Artist: 7eventh Time Down
Title: Just Say Jesus
Label: BEC Recordings
Release Date: 9/3/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre

Tracklisting:

  1. Wait For You
  2. The One I’m Running To
  3. Just Say Jesus
  4. Good Life
  5. Hurricanes
  6. Nothing to Give
  7. Shadow
  8. Religious and Famous
  9. Free
  10. Renegade

With 7eventh Time Down having released their second album Just Say Jesus on September 3rd, the band from Kentucky, with direct similarities to Seventh Day Slumber both musically and lyrically, has shown us what happens when their roots in rock music continues to be at the forefront of the identity (to me, they are a better version of 7th Day Slumber, both in a lyrical and musical sense). As lead singer Mikey Howard alludes to how …we only touch on a little bit of the brokenness because we feel like that part of our story is the smallest part. We focus on what God has done in us through His son Jesus and the cross. We quickly get to the bigger part of the story, the resurrection part, and that’s what our focus is as a ministry—life, resurrection, joy…’, I am reminded of how the central theme that underpins the album in how we call Christ to our sides always because Jesus is able to come when we ask, is such a theme that is central for listeners (myself included) to take interest, not just in the song ‘Just Say Jesus’, but in the whole album in general. While the album wasn’t really that publicised because of the anticipated album Heart by The City Harmonic, which released on the same day in September; this album is great for those who enjoy rock songs (but also don’t mind listening to a few ballads here and there), and enjoy similar artists like Seventh Day Slumber, Hawk Nelson, Skillet or RED. Making their home at BEC Recordings, these four men of God have given us songs to enjoy in the car late at night when all you are into is rock music. From the title track to other highlights like ‘The One I’m Running To’, ‘Free’ and ‘Hurricanes’; 7eventh Time Down has improved leaps and bounds compared to their debut, and are starting to become a formidable force, both on BEC Recordings and in the scene of Christian rock music in general.

Standing at 2 minutes, 43 seconds in length, ‘Just Say Jesus’, as a pop ballad, errs on the side of short rather than a decent-timed 4 minute length (which is the average for inspirational pop ballads on the radio). Despite the shortness (which is quite noticeable considering that they only sing the chorus after the bridge once), 7eventh Time Down make up for it with intense passion and hopeful encouragement as we hear the message of how when we are in desperate need, our call to Jesus will be answered without delay or hesitation. With the instrumentation at the beginning sounding exactly like Tenth Avenue North’s ‘By Your Side’ and how it started, with light acoustics and a strong drum beat; the song similarly conveys a message of God’s closeness to us. Mikey’s passion is undeniable when he calls out that ‘…when you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus…’, and even if you aren’t that into contemporary radio pop, this song nevertheless is lyrically sound. With the song possibly the softest on the album in terms of music and tempo; the band has delivered a melody that has charted on both K-Love and Air 1, influencing listeners around the world as they themselves use the song as a catalyst to cry out to God in their time of need. Starting off the album with ‘Wait For You’, a Rock radio single as compared to a Contemporary radio single (‘Just Say Jesus’); 7eventh Time Down packs in a great punch full of intense guitars a la Kutless (for me, it reminded me of similar intros to various songs on their latest album Believer). A message of staying with the ones we love in their own times of trouble, waiting for them just as others have waited for us, Mikey powerfully lets listeners know that ‘…until my bones collapse, I ‘m never giving up on you, until the day you get back, I will wait for you…’ Uplifting and encouraging, the beauty of it is that the song can be viewed in two ways- us singing to our closest friends in difficult circumstances, vowing to stick by them no matter what; or God singing towards us, declaring the exact same things. Hopefully encouraging a seed to be sown in the hearts of those seeking God (or even those not even seeking Him); well done to the band for these two great songs that are some of the highlights on Just Say Jesus.

‘Free’, standing at 3 minutes exactly, is one of the surprise tracks, both musically and in terms of guest appearances. As Mikey uses this track to unveil that ‘…I’ve been a dark horse, running for way too long, chasing down dreams where I don’t belong…so tell me what it means to be free…’, something that we all can feel one time or another, we are reminded as Christians that God paid the ultimate price so that we can be free. A bit busy in a music sense (at some points, the busy guitars cause me to pause the melody- not stop it- so that I can catch and gather my thoughts and wait so that I can start listening to the song again); KJ-52’s surprise rap at the end of the track is a nice addition, and one that’ll hopefully encourage listeners of the rap genre to at least be interested in that track. ‘Renegade’ also continues along the similar vein musically with a powerful electric guitar undertone throughout the entire track, delivers great vocals as Mikey channels Michael Barnes from RED in a few parts, with screamo added in for good measure as the band decides to end the album the same way they started it- delivering a rock anthem full of head-banging moments and great appeal to listeners of harder rock or heavy metal. The strong uplifting message (if you can hear it amidst the guitars) of how we won’t live like how we were before, and that according to Mikey, ‘…I’m running like a renegade…’; the guitars and powerful instrumental intros keep coming in both ‘Good Life’ and ‘Religious and Famous’, both guitar driven songs that aren’t quite as heavy as the few songs discussed about in this paragraph, yet aren’t quite reflective as ‘Just Like Jesus’, and other slower-like melodies on the album like ‘Hurricanes’ and ‘The One I’m Running To’. With slight vocal distortion, ‘Good Life’ encourages us to run towards the good life which is in Jesus, complete with a powerful and mesmerising guitar solo reminding me of something that Delirious? guitarist Stu G. would do; while ‘Religious and Famous’ heeds a warning to all aspiring men and women longing to be in the business of show business. The poignancy behind Mikey’s powerful declarations of how ‘…we are not religious and famous, we don’t want to be the ones we talk about…’, Mikey’s impersonation of Skillet lead singer John Cooper (without the raspy-ness in the voice) is quite the feat, and a certain highlight on a song and album that provides us all with the message of us being devoted to Christ, rather than the transient things around and before us.

While the band’s strength is by far the upbeat guitar driven tracks, they also remind us of their own musical versatility in the slower tracks, particularly the title track, ‘Hurricanes’ and ‘Nothing to Give’. Carrying on from the message of ‘Just Say Jesus’, and how it is when we call on Jesus’s name that we can see the power in it, God working through the circumstances we are in; ‘Hurricanes’ employs light acoustic guitar loops to remind us that God is stronger than the hurricanes we so often find ourselves in. A certain radio single in the future, we are given great comfort in these uplifting words, that ‘…every storm that I face, every rising tide, Your love never fails, I know You’re by my side, I won’t be afraid, cause You are stronger than these hurricanes…’, and even if He doesn’t take away these storms, we know He’s using them to continually transform and mould us into better children of God. Also offering up themes of surrender and longing for God to fill us so that we can in turn go forth and release God’s love to others (‘Nothing to Give’), as well as the electronic keyboard infused ‘The One I’m Running To’, a declaratory ballad with Mikey showing His allegiance in the words of how ‘…You are the one I’m running to…’ (in times of trial and in times of hope and happiness); the band have delivered a great variety of musical genres to place this album as one of BEC Recording’s best in 2013 so far!

Overall: 7eventh Time Down, relatively new to BEC Recordings, won’t be so new after their new album is heard by listeners around the world. Arguably one of my favourite artists on BEC Recordings currently (alongside Jeremy Camp, Kutless, Shine Bright Baby and KJ-52), these men from Kentucky deliver enough in this album to warrant at least a listen. Comparisons to both RED and Skillet, as well as their BEC Recordings label-mate Seventh Day Slumber can be quite apparent, with many songs often leading me to think, even for a split second, that either Joseph Rojas, John Cooper or Michael Barnes is singing rather than Mikey himself. Released in a month that is killer in terms of good albums releases (from artists like Newsboys, Bethel, The City Harmonic, Phil Wickham and Steven Curtis Chapman); fans of these aforementioned bands above will certainly enjoy Just Say Jesus. Well done guys for such an enjoyable and heartfelt album!

RIYL: RED, Fireflight, Seventh Day Slumber, Skillet, Kutless

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3

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